UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab - The Buzz, Volume 7, November 2015
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Bees, Plants, and People
Outreach & Communicating Our Lab's Work 
     Our research group at the University of California has been documenting bee diversity and bee-host plant relationships throughout both the state of California and Costa Rica since 1987. In the past several decades, our work has taken on new dimensions with unique projects focusing on bees in both urban and agricultural landscapes. Beyond working with bees and plants, our Lab places high priority in working with people and communicating our work to the general public. 

     In the past two months, we've held several workshops, talks, garden tours, and classroom visits, allowing us to reach thousands of people here in the Bay Area and even across the country. We regularly update our website events page to show where you can find us. We use these events to reach community members and raise awareness around native bee biology and ecology along with habitat gardening strategies to engage in pollinator conservation. Many people are shocked to learn that California has 1600 bee species! Awareness is the first step to advocacy, and we hope that more people knowing about and appreciating our diverse bees (especially children) will encourage them to take steps for their protection. These steps can be as simple as creating a bee garden, or even just adding a few bee-attractive plants to an outdoor space. 

     The Urban Bee Lab is unique amongst most university research groups for this commitment to conducting outreach at such a scale. This commitment comes from our fundamental belief that engaging community members in our work is essential to ensuring that our research findings will have direct impacts on the ground. Research doesn't happen in a vacuum- it necessitates the involvement of different stakeholders so that new information can be translated into practice. 
- Chris Jadallah, Undergraduate Assistant
Winter is Coming! 
Gardening Tasks to Prep for Winter
Fall is underway, and as temperatures drop and the rains (hopefully) begin to roll in, there are a number of garden tasks to complete now that will prepare your space for Winter and even Spring. Tips adopted from UC Master Gardeners. 

- Plant new trees and shrubs along with cool-season annuals. Fall is one of the best times to plant perennials. (Check out our newest publication "California Bee-Friendly Garden Recipes" for plant ideas).

- Build your compost pile up with a mix of carbon-rich browns and nitrogen-rich greens that will break down over the winter and be ready for use in the spring. Be sure to keep the compost moist and well-aerated. 

- Cut back and divide leggy perennials (think Aster's and Salvia's). 

- Deadhead most plants that are done flowering. 

- As plants slow down, stop fertilizing. Water as necessary and consider turning off irrigation systems. 

- Chris Jadallah, Undergraduate Assistant
Upcoming Events:

November 17 - Sara will be speaking at the Berkeley Garden Club's general meeting. The talk will take place at the Albany Community Center from 2-3 pm. 

Interested in bringing us to an event? Fill out a presentation request form here

California Bees & Blooms Anniversary!
One year ago, we brought you California Bees & Blooms, a comprehensive guide for gardeners and naturalists highlighting our state's diverse native bees, their relationship with flowers, best gardening practices to encourage pollinators, and much more. The San Francisco Chronicle said, "this is a landmark book, and one that could mark the start of a revolution in how our crops are pollinated. It will also provide a great deal of enjoyment as gardeners attract and learn about these big or tiny, fuzzy or shiny, striped, black, brown or iridescent green bees."

California Bees & Blooms is available for purchase here
We'd love to see pictures of your homemade bee condos!  Send photos and your location to urbanbeelab@gmail.com.  We'll share our favorites in the next newsletter and on our website!

 "I look forward to spending the next several years returning to the hills, exploring the river of beauty that flows through our lives, seeing how close I can get to its headwaters, and through writing and public engagement bringing back reports to all my friends." 
 - Malcom Margolin, Executive Director of Heyday Books (publishers of our California Bees and Blooms) on his retirement. 9/22/15. 
FAQ: Building Your Own
Bee Condo

Fall is here and winter is quickly approaching, signaling the perfect time to build and install your own bee condo!  We receive many emails and inquiries about bee homes, so we thought we should answer your most common questions here.

Who uses bee condos?  
* Cavity nesting bees like mason bees (Osmia spp.) and leaf-cutter bees (Megachile spp.).  These bees typically look for naturally occurring holes in wood (beetle holes) or stems in which to build their nests.

When will bees occupy them?
* Mason bees will be the first to emerge in early spring (Feb-April) and begin using your constructed bee home.  Leaf-cutter bees begin emerging from their nests in late spring into summer (April - July).  Adult females will begin provisioning them with nectar and pollen shortly after they emerge from their nests and mate.  

How do I know if bees are using them?
* Watch for bees entering and exiting the holes with bellies full of pollen, mandibles full of mud, and leave pieces tucked underneath them.  When the bee is finished with one nest, she will plug the entrance hole with either mud or leaf pieces, so keep your eyes on the holes too!

How long will the bees be in the nests developing?
* Most of these bees have just one generation a year, so the nests will stay occupied until the following spring or summer.  The adults will long have passed away, but the nest generation will develop over the next year.  Look for small holes in the plugs at the end of the nests to know when the new generation has emerged.  The new adult bees will chew their way out and you'll notice a small hole in the mud or leaf.

How and when do I clean the holes out?
* This can be tricky, but the holes definitely need to get cleaned out every 2 years or so.  Pest populations can build up in the nests if not properly managed, so keep your condo clean in order to keep your guests healthy!  You can either line the holes with paper tubes, and replace those each year, or you can re-drill the holes to smooth and clean them out once the new generation has emerged.

Where should I hang the condo when it's finished?
* For the best results, hang the condo somewhere where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade (east facing).  This will warm the condo in the morning, which helps the females to get active, then it keeps the condo shaded and cool in the afternoon so the developing brood doesn't cook inside.  Also, make sure it has a roof or is under an overhang, so it doesn't get wet from all the "rain" we are scheduled to get this year!

Here are some good sites for instructions on building your own condo.  We don't recommend purchasing bees over the internet as you could unknowingly be transferring diseases and pests into your local bee population.  If you build it....they will come!

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